Topics in Reasoning - PL623

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
(version 2)
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6 30 (15) PROF J Williamson


Indicative Reading List

D.A.Gillies (2000): Philosophical theories of probability, Routledge
Russo and Illari (2014): Causality: Philosophical theory meets scientific practice, OUP.
Hacking (2001): An introduction to probability and inductive logic, CUP.





The module will cover some of the major topics of the theory of reasoning, with a focus on presenting students with new and exciting research. The syllabus will vary from year to year. The approach will be philosophical and critical, and may involve the close reading of texts. Students will be expected to engage critically with the works being studied and to formulate and argue for their own views on the issues covered.

As an indication of the kind of topics covered, the following are three potential syllabi, one of which might operate in any particular year:

1. Probability and probabilistic reasoning: This syllabus will present the major interpretations of probability and their connection with the various kinds of probabilistic reasoning. Topics covered might include: the classical interpretation; the logical interpretation; the subjective interpretation; the frequency interpretation; the propensity interpretation; the objective Bayesian interpretation. The key text will be D.A.Gillies (2000): Philosophical theories of probability, Routledge.
2. Causality and causal reasoning: This syllabus will present the major theories of causality, including difference-making theories (probabilistic theories, counterfactual theories, agency theories), mechanistic theories (process theories, complex systems theories) and pluralist theories. It will go on to consider methods of causal reasoning in the sciences and the implications of such methods for the metaphysics of causality. In the absence of a comprehensive text, this syllabus will appeal to papers, especially those in the Oxford Handbook of Causation (OUP 2009), and Causality in the Sciences (OUP 2011).
3. Invalid arguments: This syllabus will look in detail at methods of assessing the cogency of deductively invalid arguments. In particular it will present the methods of inductive logic for assessing the plausibility of arguments. It will provide an introduction to probabilistic logics and their semantics, as well as to methods of inference in probabilistic logics, with a focus on elementary methods that can be readily acquired by students with little prior training in logic and no prior knowledge of probability theory. In the absence of a text at a suitable level, this syllabus will be accompanied by a set of detailed lecture notes.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

This module will be taught by means of a two-hour lecture and a two-hour seminar for ten weeks.


Also available to Level 5 students under code PL622

Method of assessment

100% Coursework

Preliminary reading

None, however some familiarity with basic propositional logic (e.g., via the stage 1 module Philosophical Thinking) would be helpful.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module Level 6 students will be able to:

8.5 Understand in detail the major positions and arguments in this area;
8.6 Engage critically with some of the central issues in this field, and ultimately support a solution to a particular issue, through their study of the relevant arguments;
8.7 Demonstrate their understanding of the various theories in this area and a recognition of the implications of these theories for problems within associated areas, all through their study of these arguments;
8.8 Demonstrate the ability to engage in a close critical reading of some of major texts in the field, and refer to major texts to support their own position.

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